The Middle East's users of Microsoft's Windows operating system will not be offered the same choices of Web browser that the company is extending to European customers after its settlement with EU regulators. Microsoft has sent Windows users in Europe a "browser ballot" screen explaining the different types of browsers they could select.
The ballot was sent out following an agreement with EU antitrust regulators following charges that Microsoft was violating competition law by including Explorer with Windows. The ballot will not be sent to Windows users in the Middle East, said Michael Mansour, the group director for developer and platform technologies for Microsoft. "It's a regional decision," he said. "When we serve the global market, different markets have different requirements and clearly in the EU there is a need to provide this option to consumers. This is not something driven by the developers or driven by Microsoft, it's really government legislation."
Explorer is estimated to have about 61 per cent of the browser market, but its dominance has slipped in recent years as rivals from Apple, Mozilla and Google have been released. Browers, which are applications to help surf the Web, are becoming increasingly important to media companies as they can control what search engine is primarily used and how online advertisements are displayed. As Explorer held the lion's share of the market for more than a decade, Microsoft has been able to control how the Web is seen on personal computers.
Microsoft and the EU have been at odds since 1993, following claims that the company has been conducting monopolistic business practices over elements of its Windows system. It was investigated by the EU in January last year, following a claim by the Norwegian browser developer Opera Software that other browsers could not compete with Explorer. Up to 200 million computers in Europe will be affected by Microsoft's agreement with the EU. The latest version of Windows is available in Europe without Explorer.
"The EU has made some decisions recently that are very specific about availability, and when the decisions were made we had made the proper adjustments," Mr Mansour said. If the UAE or other Middle Eastern governments feel the same as EU regulators, Microsoft will provide the same browser choice, he said. "We're certainly supportive of the region we cover. The legislation is not out here in the UAE."